What is Spread Betting?

how to bet on the spread

What is Spread Betting?

Like an Over/Under ‘Spread Bet’ is an educated guess of how a sports market favors either team.

Spread betting is recognizable by + or – symbols. 

  • When a team has a spread with a (+), it indicates that the team must win the game outright or lose the game by a fewer number of points than the spread.
  • When a team has a spread line with a (-), it indicates that the team must win the game by more points than the spread.

The “Spread” is a sports betting market in which a sportsbook handicaps a game by setting a margin for each team, which essentially makes the market on either side equal. The estimated handicap is referred to as the ‘spread’. Spread betting is only available for events where there are two possible outcomes, such as a game of NFL, where there are no draws.

The spread betting market is show similar to this: Cleveland -8.0 @ Portland+8.0

For example; if the sportsbook believes Cleveland is an 8-point better team than Portland, the sportsbook can handicap Cleveland 8 points. The Spread bet becomes Cleveland to win by 8+ pts or Portland to be within 8 points at the end of the game.

Each outcomes would be of equal odds between -105 to -110.

The above example would be listed by the sportsbook as: Cleveland -8.0 @-110 | Portland +8.0 @-110

With a Spread, you aren’t betting whether a team will win or lose, but rather how many points they will win or lose by according to the set handicap.

If you think Portland are a good chance to beat Cleveland in the example, taking a Spread of +8.0 would be a good bet. On the other side, if you think Cleveland will win the game easily, a -8.0 line is the bet to take.

With a Spread line of +8.0, Portland must win the game or lose by 8 points or less to cover the Spread and the bet to win. Alternatively, Cleveland must win by 8+ points to cover the spread and be graded as a win.

Spread Betting Advice

For picking the Spread in NBA basketball, the main aspects to focus on are –

  • Recent team matchups – Certain teams play well against others and there are cases where poor teams match up well against good teams (these are the cases where there may be ‘value’ in the market).
  • Last 5-10 games performances – All teams go on hot and cold streaks, studying a teams recent form, generally over the previous 5-10 games, is an indicator of their confidence and form coming into their next game.
  • Back to back games, travel and rest – No matter how strong a team is, if they are on a back to back schedule (or back to back to back), they will be likely be tired and perhaps a little sore. Likewise if a team is on a long road trip, they will be tired, and that’s where you can take advantage of the more rested team. If a team has rested for a day or two (this relates more to NBA, and NHL), they should have more energy and be rid of niggling injuries. Study their history over these travel phases however, as some teams perform poorly after rest days, and some teams play well on back to back schdeules.
  • Injuries to players  – If there are a lot of injuries on either team, particularly with star players, the line will shift accordingly. Keep an eye on injuries and “personal leave” of players and you’ll be able to spot a weak spread before the sportsbook adjusts the line.

The best advice here is to watch the stats on a regular basis.

What if the spread matches the final match result?

The sportsbook will list the spread as either a solid number, or to a decimal point.

Example; the sportsbook will list the spread as -8.0 or -8.5.

The odds for the solid spread will usually be less, as there are now 2 outcomes that can favor the sports bettor, not 1.

If the spread is set as -8.0 and the winning margin of the selected team is 8, the bettor has “Pushed” the bet, and (depending on sportsbook) will get their stake back as a refund.

If the spread is set as -8.5, the only outcome is a Win/Loss for the bettor.


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